After shooting 29 percent in the first half, Eagles sizzle in the second half at 60 percent; Idaho State visits on Saturday
Rarely do teams double their team shooting percentage in the first half to the second half, but that’s exactly what Eastern Washington University did in a 65-51 Big Sky Conference men’s basketball victory over Portland State on Thursday (Jan. 27) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
The Eagles made only 29 percent in the first half to fall behind 26-22 at intermission, but exploded for 60 percent shooting in the second half to out-score the Vikings 43-25 and cruise to the huge 14-point win.
Junior forward Treymayne Johnson paced the Eagles with 20 points -- scoring 10 in each half -- to go along with a team-high seven rebounds. Sophomore guards Kevin Winford and Glen Dean scored all of their points in the second half, with Winford scoring 12 and Dean finishing with 10 points and a game-high six assists.
Sophomore guard Jeffrey Forbes chipped in six points and five assists as the trio of guards combined for 11-of-29 shooting from the field, but were just 2-of-12 in the first half. One game earlier in a 57-55 loss at Sacramento State, that trio was 0-of-17 from the field.
“I told them at halftime to shoot the ball -- step up and shoot the ball,” explained head coach Kirk Earlywine. “I told them not to play scared and that I wouldn’t take them out. When they had an open shot, they just needed to step up and shoot it.’”
Eastern finished the game making 45 percent while PSU made only 37 percent, including just 4-of-13 three-point attempts. It was the third-straight game the Eagles have held an opponent under 60 points. Eastern had done that just once in 15 previous games against NCAA Division I opponents
“I also told them to keep guarding their butts off, to keep rebounding and to keep taking care of the ball,” said Earlywine. “I knew we would be alright and the shots would go in.”
The Eagles finished the game with just eight turnovers and had a 33-30 rebounding advantage, with Laron Griffin chipping in 10 points and seven rebounds. Cliff Ederaine added two points and five boards as Eastern’s forwards contributed 32 points and 19 rebounds to the cause.
“Our big guys are starting to score in the paint and that’s making it easier on the guards,” Earlywine said. “Our guards are very, very good shooters. They have to keep working to get good shots and then jump up and shoot it.”
The win vaulted Eastern into a sixth-place tie with PSU as both are now 3-5 in the league. Eastern is now 6-14 overall while PSU fell to 10-10, and earlier this season, Eastern fell at Portland State 74-58
Eastern returns to Reese Court Saturday (Jan. 29) to face Idaho State, which lost 74-63 at Sacramento State on Thursday. The Bengals, which had knocked off Montana State on Monday 55-45, is currently 6-14 overall and 2-6 in the conference.
“We’re going to play another team Saturday night that feels like they are backed into a corner,” said Earlywine. “They are going to come out with unbelievable energy and enthusiasm, and we have to match that. We have to understand what we are playing for because there is a lot on the line on Saturday.”
The radio broadcast of the all Eastern games may be heard on 700-AM ESPN “The Ticket” and via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com, with veteran play-by-play broadcaster Dennis Patchin calling the action. All home games and other Big Sky Conference games may also be viewed free of charge at www.bigskytv.org.
The first half Thursday featured six lead changes, but the Vikings took a trio of six-point leads late in the half. Neither team shot the ball well -- Eastern was 8-of-28 for 29 percent, including just 2-of-12 three-point attempts for 17 percent. The Vikings made 9-of-23 from the field for 39 percent and were just 1-of-5 from the arc.
“We didn’t play bad in the first half either,” admitted Earlywine. “We missed a couple of shots we should have made. It seemed (their shooting slump) was in their heads a little bit. We had a rough start shooting the ball in the first half and they got a little tentative. That worried me a little bit.”
But Eastern quickly overcame the deficit with a 9-3 run to open the second half, then went on a 12-2 run to take a 48-37 lead on a three-pointer by Kevin Winford. Winford scored six of EWU’s points in the run, Johnson had four and Dean had the other two.
The closest PSU could come after that was eight points as EWU built a 19-point lead at 61-42 with 3:32 left in the game.
While the Eagles are 0-11 on the road this season with a 17-game road losing streak dating back to last year, the Eagles have won six of nine games at Reese Court. The Eagles play four of their final eight league games at home. Plus, Eastern will host a yet to be announced opponent on either Feb. 18 or 19 in the ESPN BracketBusters.
Earlywine has been pleased by his team’s defense in recent games. Eastern has held only four NCAA Division opponents to 60 points or less, and three of those have come in the last three games. One game earlier at Montana State on Jan. 11, the Eagles held MSU to 30 percent shooting en route to leading 29-23 at halftime, but then allowed the Bobcats to make 73 percent in the second half as the Eagles fell 71-59.
“In seven of eight halves we’ve guarded pretty darn well. We’re starting to get there.”
EWU-Idaho State Series History (Since 1983-84): Eastern has won 19 of the past 28 meetings against the Bengals, including sweeps in the 2001-02, 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Idaho State swept the Eagles in the regular season in 2002-03, but Eastern won the third meeting by a 76-67 score in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Last year, Eastern lost at Idaho State 80-74 but won 79-71 in Cheney where the season ended for both teams.
Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 30-26 against the Bengals, including a 21-7 record in Cheney and 8-18 mark in Pocatello (1-1 on neutral courts). Eastern lost eight-straight games to ISU from 1993 to 1997, and leads in the all-time series 33-27 (23-6 in Cheney, 9-20 in Pocatello, 1-1 neutral).